Conversations, part 3
June 1, 2000

A figure sat alone in the half-gloom just outside the reach of the nearest street lamp's glow, his back to the cold stone wall of an old and partially crumbling building- once a pharmacy, currently abandoned, and officially-illegally- being used as an ultra-low rent tenement by some local indigents. Few people passed by at this time of night, and none paid any attention to this lone figure, but rather hurried by. If they had looked his way, they wouldn't have thought he could see anyone or anything; aside from the dimness of the light, his head was buried in his arms, which rested on his knees. In fact, they would have doubted he was awake, or sober.

In fact, he was both, and he didn't miss a thing. His eyes were, after hours of sitting here, very well adjusted to the dark, and someone in his position couldn't afford to be taken by surprise. But, aside from a healthy, subtle paranoia, he paid the passers-by as little mind as they paid him. He preferred to remain alone with his thoughts, though perhaps he mainly thought this, just now, because he thought that no one he'd be at all interested in talking with would be at all interested in talking with him.

And then, he noticed someone approaching on the sidewalk. The lone man looked up at her, thinking she looked vaguely familiar. He stared at her, trying to dredge up a name from his memory, to attach to the face. It clearly wasn't someone he knew well, or necessarily at all. But he was sure he had seen her somewhere before, and that triggered both his paranoia, and something else. A desire to talk to someone, anyone... and he thought perhaps if it were someone he knew well enough for them not to fear him, but not well enough for them to hate him, either.... He realized that in a moment, she'd would pass by, and didn't want to lose his chance to speak, so he waved such thoughts away, concentrating instead on his attempt to recognize her. Alice? he thought to himself. That girl Jervis was so gone over? No... someone else. Hmmm.... Then suddenly, without meaning to, he said aloud, "Maven?"

She jerked to a stop, just as she came into the lamp's light, and cautiously turned around. "Y-yes? Who's there?"

"I'm just outside the light. Been sitting here for hours. Gimme a minute, I'll get up." He hoped she wouldn't run away.

She squinted into the darkness, and dimly perceived a form struggling to stand and stretch, before starting slowly forward. When she could see his face as he came into the light, she took a step backward. "Kidder? I mean, we've never met, but... Kidder? That is you, isn't it? You've been in the papers enough, recently. Not that anyone's seen you in a month or so, since your escape... But everyone's been worried about what you might be up to, especially since... what you did to that poor doctor.... H-how do you know me, anyway?"

He cracked a small grin. "I know a lot of things about interesting people."

"You think I'm interesting?"

"I don't know you well enough to have an opinion about that, but I know that you're a friend of someone who's interesting. You're one of the things I know about her."

She nodded. "Selina. You know her, of course. Not that she's ever really mentioned you, but... you do know her?"

"We've met a few times. At least, I believe we have. Recently I've begun to doubt some of my assumptions about my own experiences, including how well I might actually have known some of the people I believed to have been my friends. I've found that some of my memories were exaggerated, and some were perhaps flat-out delusions. No, no one ever seems to have been terribly interested in me- until now. The people I called my friends, I think perhaps they considered me a mildly entertaining distraction, if they ever even thought of me at all. Even my dear old mentor, the Joker. *sigh* Even my enemies... Batman must've thought me slightly irritating, at most. Many of the crimes I thought I'd committed, it turns out I hadn't. Of course, I always liked to stay fairly low-key. But I always thought I could be- and sometimes was- so much more, if I really wanted to. It's all still a little blurry, in my mind. I find it so difficult to separate what I now know to be the truth from what I now know to be... fantasy. Because it all fit together so seamlessly, before. So much of what is still true doesn't make much sense to me anymore, in conjunction with what I've only lately discovered to be true. I think I'd almost feel better if everything had turned out to be a delusion. That, at least, would make some kind of sense, and would be easier to come to terms with.

"But I do go on! I expect you know all this, already. You did say you'd seen me in the papers.... I presume that means you've been reading them, not just gazing dreamily at my pretty face." He paused, and sighed. "Anyway... it seems dear old Dr. Bart has sometimes such a tenuous grasp... or, shall we say, a novel interpretation, of the concept of doctor-patient privilege. He'll keep some things under his hat, but some things seem to him to be fair game to spread around to Batman, the press, or anyone else, if the situation seems to warrant. Well, that's okay. I'm so over that guy. He's no fun anymore. I think our final session, however tumultuous, rather unexpectedly resulted in... well, obviously not curing me, per se.... But it made me reexamine things, and come to a clearer, more realistic view of the world and my place in it. I'm grateful to him for that. I also hate him for it, but... it's for the best. I suppose I'd rather be aware of reality, however hard and painful it may be." He sighed again, and sat back down against the wall, this time in the light.

Maven took a step toward him, unsure what to say or do. She'd rather not be here, talking to this person she didn't even know, who she knew to be capable of terrible violence... But at the same time, she wasn't afraid of him. She felt more sympathetic than anything else. "Are... are you sure you're okay, Kidder? I'm glad to hear you're feeling... saner, or whatever. But are you quite sure?"

He looked back up at her. "Why, how kind of you to ask, my dear. In fact, no. I don't think I'll ever really be okay again. I did mention that reality is hard and painful, yes? I did mention that I'm having trouble coming to terms with various things about my past, reconciling things. Perhaps I can get my head around all that, with time. But what really hurts is that I don't have any friends, anymore. ...Check that. I never had friends. At least not in the criminal, insane phase of my life. I just can't imagine... how I imagined all those friendships! Joker, Harley, Catsy, Riddly, Pengy, Hatsy, Ivy, Two-Face, the Perfesser, Temple, Calendar Girl, and so many more.... Most of them were barely aware of my existence, let alone being friends with me. My so-called 'apprenticeship' with the Joker apparently didn't last more than a couple of months, and I thought it was a few years. He didn't train me for much of anything. He tried to use me, until he got bored with me. He didn't give back the gang I'd given him, or GJK, or much of anything. I took a few of my old friends when I left, along with a few meager holdings Joker didn't care about or even notice were missing. Of course, it was a few years before I decided to go off on my own, but until then I'd just been hanging around, with Joker and most of his associates taking no notice of me, because they didn't care if I happened to be there or not. And after I left... I thought I stayed in touch with people I'd met through Joker, or in Arkham. Thought I worked with people. Thought I was in the damn 'Foes of Batman' club, which I'm not sure now even ever existed! Why, I remember clear as a bell, a night out with Eddie, Jono, and Temple. Not a crime wave or anything, just a simple night out to dinner at a nice restaurant, with some most enjoyable conversation. But that never happened. And there was the time I spent in a coma, I remember lots of things about that. Which is about the hardest stuff to get over, but I'm not planning on ever talking about that, with anyone. The other stuff, though... the stuff that happened all those years before the coma.... It simply boggles my mind. How could I have ever been so far gone, and not realize it?

"So, no, I'm not okay. Not by a long-shot. But I can't keep up the rage at the absolute unfairness of everything, 24/7. I just haven't the energy. It gets spent, and I'm left with the depression. And then I've no energy even for that, and I just want to sleep. Or die. But despite being dead tired, it still usually takes hours to get to sleep, if I do at all."

"Don't... don't you think maybe you'd be better off at Arkham, where they may administer anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and such things?"

"Ah, but Arkham to me was once such a beloved home, a place where I could rest, and spend time with my dear friends, and play with Dr. Bart's head, and so forth. But now... even if I no longer quite doubt myself- for I have proven to myself what I'm capable of, though I'm not talking about anything you or anyone else is ever likely to hear of- even so, I'll always have other things to doubt, or rather, to be keenly aware I've been wrong about. These things would all be brought into sharp relief, in that place. And trust me, that's no relief at all."

"I understand, but the papers say..."

"I know what the papers say. I've read the papers. What they don't say is that I talked to Dr. Bartholomew. A week ago."

"A week? But... I thought no one had heard from you since... early May. Why hasn't he mentioned this to the press?"

Kidder sighed. "I guess the man isn't entirely without professional ethics, integrity. I asked him not to talk to anyone about this. I couldn't tell you whether he kept his promise, vis--vis Batman or the police, but at least he's kept it out of the press, and for that I'm grateful. Well, listen. You know, ever since he got out of hospital, he's been telling the press that, despite the apparent setback in my treatment, the... incident... may have actually represented a breakthrough, for me. I said as much, myself, a little while ago." Maven nodded. "Well, I was... out of town, for a couple of weeks. When I caught up on the local news, after returning, I dropped in on the doc, for a private chat. For the first time in my life, I really tried to work with him, for my own benefit. But it didn't work. It just didn't help, and I could see it was never going to. I don't know if anything would work, all I can say is that the doctor's methods aren't right for me, even if he disagrees. So, I decided that I have to try to take care of myself, from now on."

"You seem to be doing a wonderful job of it, so far," she said sarcastically.

Kidder smiled. "Thanks. Well, you know, I couldn't bring myself to go back to the old digs. I'm looking for a new place, but my assets have been frozen. And with the police looking for me, it's not like I can go back to work."

"I'm sure you must have accounts the authorities don't know about, or can't touch. Lots of money. Maybe you could take a vacation. The Bahamas or something. Hit the beach. Relax."

"Well, thank you, truly, for the thought. You're great, kid. But no. It might be kinda nice, but it wouldn't really do any good. Gotham is too me. I am Gotham, now more than ever. You can take the Kidd out of gloomsville, but... well, you know. Anyway, this is where I belong. I have to try to work things out, here. But maybe someday, when I've got a real handle on things, I will take that vacation, hit the beach. As long as I always know I can come back home."

"Have you got any idea what you're going to do?"

"Not really. Let events unfold before me, and try to go along with whatever happens, at least until I get some ideas. I dunno."

"Well, anyway... it's late. I've got to get home. I hope you can get some sleep. And I hope things get better for you."

"Thank you kindly, dear woman. I hope you'll be well. Say hi to Catsy for me, next time you see her. And to that cute little Isis. Well... good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Maven, and left.

After a few minutes, Kidder sighed again, got up, stuck his hands in his pockets, looked at his feet, and ambled away. Not that I don't trust her not to tell the cops where she saw me, he said to himself, but better safe than sorry, I guess....